With the last crumb eaten and the last dish washed, the three Mooses stood at the aft deck rail of the Star Child’s rail and surveyed the ghost ship in thoughtful silence until Monroe started to fidget. “So what do we do now?” he asked looking from one companion to the other. “You have to remember, I usually rescue people’s spirits and minds from sadness or boredom. When I save bodies it is usually a spur of the moment, rush in and save the day sort of thing. I am not used to mysteries. Should I get out a magnifying glass and go look for clues, whatever they might be?”
“You may not be used to this type of rescue, but I am convinced that you are the perfect Moose to have along for this particular mission,” Miltin said with such absolute surety that Monroe started to feel better. “Close your eyes and look at the ship. Use the part of you that finds the hidden pockets for your magic tricks, the part that found what pinned you to the mast so you could push it away, the part that itched in the hold. What is over there? That is the clue we need to find.” Monroe’s eyes had already shut in response to Miltin’s suggestion and the small, old Moose used his slow, rhythmic words to ease Monroe’s tension and help him focus.
Monroe leaned his elbows on the rail and propped his long jaw up with a loosely clenched poof. He shifted his head back and forth from time to time to study the scene from slightly different angles through his closed eyelids.
Captain Milty settled patiently to watching the ocean while he waited, but Miltin focused on Monroe. The little engineer managed to maintain his air of stolid calm for several minutes, but then he started to fidget. After a decent length of fidgety waiting, Miltin suddenly asked, “So, what do you see?”
Monroe blinked his eyes open slowly and said, “Sorry, I was still exploring. There are a lot more ships than just this one here. They are not even all sailing ships, or even surface ships. Many different worlds and many different types of space overlap at this spot a lot more tightly pressed together than usual. If a ship–be it submarine, surface, sky, or space–slips into the overlapping spot, it sticks. I am trying to find the middle ship, the first, the source. If I can find that one, and we can get there, we should be able to find all of the missing crews, and start making plans for the rescue.” Monroe turned to look down at his smaller friends, pulling his mind completely away from the problem to the present for a moment. “There is a lot of information for me to sort through, and it is not at all clear. Maybe the two of you should find something else to do instead of just standing around waiting.”
“Oh,” Miltin said briefly, trying very hard not to frown or sound disappointed. The idea that a number of his friends had disappeared without his noticing troubled him deeply. The fact that he could not, now, even remember who they were made it ever so much worse. Miltin was, also, not used to feeling so useless when it came to solving a problem. All together it made waiting much more difficult than usual.
Without another word, Miltin turned with a vague idea of visiting the ship’s library to look for a book, or the galley to make snacks (even though they just finished lunch), or just laying in his cabin and counting the boards in the ceiling, or something. Before he could take the second step, Captain Milty cleared his throat in a clear “I am about to say something important” sort of way which turned Miltin back. “Thank you for the considerate thought, Monroe, but keeping in mind how many of us have already disappeared, I am uncomfortable with any of us off alone. I am content watching the interaction of the light with the water.
“Miltin, perhaps you could help Monroe with his search for the center ship. I know that you prefer to thoroughly plan, prototype, and test your creations before putting them to work, but if something is holding the ships here, maybe even sucking them in, the forces involved should be detectable, and a device would not have to sort through all the other information the way that Monroe does.” Captain Milty nodded towards the taller Moose, then added, speaking directly to Monroe, “It is not that I have any doubt of your ability to find what we need, but we do not know that time is not a factor. I would prefer to establish where the center is in relation to my ship rather than have to find my ship again after the center has sucked us to it.”
Miltin hesitated for a long held breath, still standing half-turned to look back at the captain wearing no expression the others could read. “You know, that never occurred to me,” Miltin said, eventually turning back towards the rail. “I seem to have gotten into a slight rut in my thinking. Thank you.”
Captain Milty shrugged, and shifted his weight slightly. “I have probably just spent more time talking to Marmaduke lately than you have.” Now, the Star Child left Moose Valley several weeks before they found the abandoned ship, so anything that happened before they set sail would not usually count as ‘lately’. Also, if Marmaduke was one of the vanished crew, Captain Milty should have forgotten his existence like they had with everyone else, though one never really knew what a Moose was capable of until the attempt was made. Monroe and Miltin exchanged speaking glances, but they did not comment aloud. Captain Milty commonly had information he could not have gotten, like the results of conversations he could not have been there for. He enjoyed the mystery, and his friends long ago got used to it.
Miltin and Monroe settled into their parallel investigations, occasionally exchanging a few quiet words or a brief question and answer, and left the Captain to his air of mystery. It was not like asking the Captain how or why he could have spoken with Marmaduke lately would produce any satisfying results, after all, and they had people to save, a lot more than they originally thought. The Star Child did have a portable slide on board for Captain Milty’s use, but only for emergencies, and it would have been entirely out of character for the answer to have been that simple.
“The spaceship,” Miltin said suddenly, breaking a long stretch of silence.
“Which one?” Monroe asked, then he answered his own question. “Oh yes, I see it. The big one with all the dimensional and temporal warps in it. Right…here.” Monroe raised his hand to point off in a direction most people could not quite see, and as easy as that Monroe, Miltin, and Captain Milty were…somewhere else.